Understanding the role that sugar plays in inflammation and psoriasis may inspire you to be mindful of the added sugar in your diet.
If you have psoriasis, you may wonder if what you’re eating can affect your skin health. The short: Yes.
Many people with psoriasis notice that eating sugar can trigger a flare or worsen symptoms. There are well-documented links between sugar consumption, inflammation, and psoriasis.
Inflammation is a natural process in the body that’s not always bad. Inflammation can signal the body’s immune response to an illness, germs, or an external injury. In this way, inflammation can be part of the healing process.
Alternatively, inflammation can be caused by or tied to a medical condition. Inflammation can materialize as area redness, heat, pain, or swelling. Chronic inflammation can lead to long-term damage and disease.
Certain foods can increase or decrease inflammation in the body. If you have psoriasis, eating anti-inflammatory foods can help manage your symptoms. You’ll also want to avoid foods linked to increased inflammation.
Sugar is linked to increased inflammation. A 2014 study found that people who ate a high sugar sample saw an increase in the C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker found in the blood. The CRP levels remained high for 2 hours after the participants consumed the sugar.
A 2020 review article found that evidence from animal studies has linked saturated fat, simple sugars, alcohol, and red meat with an increase in inflammatory markers.
The same review also suggested that eating more omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, probiotics, and fiber could theoretically improve psoriasis symptoms. Still, human trials are needed.
A 2021 study found that eating a diet high in sugar and fat caused an imbalance in gut bacteria, which may contribute to skin diseases like psoriasis. When mice ate a diet high in fat and sugar, researchers observed dysfunction in the gut biome and psoriasis-like skin inflammation. When the mice switched back to a healthy diet, researchers observed a reversal in their skin inflammation.
It’s important to note that the body consumes natural sugar and added sugar differently. How much sugar and the presence of other food components, like protein and fiber, may affect how the body reacts.
The human body makes insulin to process all sugar, but when too much added sugar is dumped into the bloodstream, the body must store that extra energy in fat cells. Over time, eating high levels of added sugar can inflame fat tissue.
Fresh fruit has fiber as well as natural sugar, which gives the body more time to make insulin and slowly digest the sugar. When we drink a soda full of added sugar, there’s often very little fiber to slow down digestion.
Many foods with added sugars are easy to overeat because they aren’t very filling due to a lack of fiber and protein. On the other hand, foods with natural sugars tend to have less sugar per serving and are more satiating due to their fiber or protein content.
The nutrition facts panel printed on food labels will not only include total sugars but also define how many grams are added sugars. Look for foods with only a few or zero grams of added sugar.
If you aren’t sure how much added sugar you’re consuming, check the nutrition labels of your favorite foods and log how many grams are listed.
The American Heart Association recommends the following limits for added sugar consumption:
If you have psoriasis, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet to manage your skin health.
In a national survey of U.S. adults, more than 80% of psoriasis patients reported that they use some sort of dietary modification to manage their symptoms.
People with psoriasis seem to consume more fruits, vegetables, and legumes than their peers. They also consume less sugar, dairy, calcium, and fewer whole grains than people without psoriasis.
Monitoring your added sugar intake doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert forever. You can still enjoy ice cream on a hot summer afternoon or sip hot cocoa during the winter. But understanding the role sugar may have on inflammation and psoriasis may inspire you to be mindful of the added sugars in your diet.
Medically reviewed on July 12, 2022
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